Monday, 9 November 2009

Hunter of the new giants

Debola Lewis was until recently just another employee working hard to earn his dues, and to learn as much he could. In less than two years, however, through hardwork and talent, he has become a notable name in events decoration in the country. He spoke to the ReDstrat team.

What is events’ decoration to you?
To me, it goes beyond beautifying a venue or being an entrepreneur. It is about being an essential part of someone’s special day. A well-coordinated décor actually connects to people’s emotion of being in a comfortable environment. For me, décor and a job well done, is when my client says thank you, it was beautiful.

Some would say it is unusual to find a man in events’ decoration and one doing so well. Have you always known you wanted to be a decorator?
It is no longer unusual for a man to be a decorator. Funny enough, the men I know (in the business) are doing extremely well. For instance, Mr Akin Ariyo of Open Hands and Mr Demola Majekodunmi of Bosworth Events. I always knew I was about events, but I had no idea I would be a full time decorator. I actually wanted to be an event’s planner, but hey this is it.

Are there peculiar challenges that would have been easier if you were female?
Honestly, I think being a man is actually an advantage. I tend to be more patient with women (who are 80 per cent of my clients) and connect easily with them. I cope with the stress of the business. Sometimes I wonder how the women do it (late night shuttling and all). The myth that says men are more creative at feminine jobs… cakes, clothing, cooking… the list is endless. It’s only a myth though, I don’t know how true (laughter) — for me, it’s still hard work.

What did you study in school and how has it affected you chosen career?
I studied geography at the University of Ibadan. There’s little correlation between my career and my education, so, I can’t say that it has had any effect on decorating at all.

How was it starting up?
Starting up wasn’t as bad as expected. I was already in the industry, so things just fell in place. Not forgetting that He maketh me to walk in the land of green pastures. I didn’t have any financial experience, so I learnt structures and processes on the job. That part wasn’t easy.

Did you get any form of formal training in decorating?
Not exactly a formal training. I had this aunty who taught me balloons and ribbons (back in the days). I used to go with her to decorate whenever I was on holiday. Most of the things I know, I learnt them from observing, trying to create new stuff, and following my instincts.

Does this have anything to do with your training seminar Facing the Giant?
Sure it does. I had the courage to take the bold step, though God backed me and today I have about 10 employees some of who are highly intelligent graduates. I have come to realise that a lot of young people are blessed with innate gifts; but do not have the right platform to harness these gifts into skills. Some even have the right platform, but the fear of unknown torments them. Skill is what will make you sought after. Facing The Giants is a platform where we intend teaching young people to harness their God given potentials, open their minds to environmental possibilities and start affecting the Nigerian economy.
The sole mission is to drive entrepreneurship in Nigeria.

Who are the other facilitators?
We are bringing seasoned events experts such as Funke Bucknor–Obruthe, Tara Fela-Durotoye, Akin Ariyo, TeeA, Leke Adenuga and Akin Tofowomo.

HOW important is decorating in Nigeria and is it something that for instance can be incorporated into schools’ curriculum?
There is at least one event everyday in every state of the country. These events will require one form of décor or the other. Decorating is very relevant; it is a business that adds value to people lives. Brides will always remember their wedding décor forever. More and more people are beginning to join events planning and it is becoming a respected career choice, adding it to the school curriculum is a good idea, for students to have the basic skills just like other vocational studies, instead of playing it by the ear.

Any advice for hopefuls?

Forget about how to make money, think about what drives you, think about how you want to be addressed and remembered. Think about doing something in a different way. These thoughts will guide you into excellence in delivery. When a man is diligent in his duties, he will stand before kings… is where the money is.

Judges hardly bask in praise, but the judge who decided the Bode George case certainly deserves this one for looking beyond the clichéd and the excusable to look at a new, upright standard for public officials as they are entrusted with public monies. Without a doubt, this judgment will drive fear into the hearts of those public officials who have a liking for dipping their hands in the public till – or sitting by while others do. Nigeria must change if it must progress – and young people have a thing or two to learn from Justice Olubunmi Oyewole.

There’s so much that is wrong with Nigeria that irked us in the past week– but we don’t want to sound like broken records – at least this week; so we’ll just let others do the talking.

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